How to Take Sharp Photos Explained for Beginners
Michael • updated May 31, 2022 • 9 min read
Michael • updated May 31, 2022 • 9 min read
With today’s cameras, taking good, sharp photos is simple. However, there are a few factors to keep in mind while capturing clean photographs with excellent depth of field. In this article, we provide you with 33 ideas to help you take crisp, clear images.
You know how it goes, right? You’ve just returned from one of the world’s most fascinating locations, you’ve taken apparently gorgeous photos that have already impressed you on your camera’s display, and then you receive a harsh awakening at home on your PC when you view the photos in high-resolution on the monitor! The great images you took are blurry! Sharpening in post will not save you.
This doesn’t have to be the case! Of course, the most important aspect of photography is practice and experience. But it is very helpful for beginners to learn the basics and plenty of extra tricks to get sharp images.
Make sure you keep the camera as motionless as possible whenever you push the shutter button. Walking while shooting is about as useful as chewing gum while looking through the viewfinder and pressing the shutter release.
Make sure you’re in a stable position when shooting handheld. Brace your arms if at all possible. With both hands on the camera, breathe slowly and gently hit the shutter button. Holding your breath for a few seconds while releasing the shutter can also assist.
You can, of course, get sharp images of moving objects. A suitably short exposure period is necessary. However, a blurred shot is frequently caused by an unanticipated movement of your subject.
A breeze, a person’s arms swinging, or a fast-approaching car are just a few instances. As a result, ensure that nothing moves unintentionally while you’re taking your picture.
It’s easier to get a subject as sharp as possible the closer you get to it. Haze, heat flicker, and thermals all come into play when shooting with a telephoto lens across extended distances. Aside from that, due to the high leverage that comes with faraway topics, even the tiniest actions have a greater influence than when you move closer to a subject.
On the other hand, avoid getting too close to your subject, especially when photographing small objects, plants, or flowers. Every lens has a maximum close-up range, in which the autofocus work properly.
In most cases, the autofocus even refuses to work. So, if you want to get into macro photography and capture objects up close and personal, you need to use a macro lens with a short close-focusing distance.
There is a maximum time X up to which you can normally take a non-blurry handheld shot, depending on the focal length you use. If you use a longer exposure period, your image will most likely be less sharp than you expected. If you have a full-frame camera, simply multiply the focal length by the reciprocal in seconds, i.e. a focal length of 20 mm can be exposed for a maximum of 1/20 sec. When shooting with an APS-C camera, multiply the focal length by the crop factor (Nikon: 1.5, Canon: 1.6).
When shooting handheld, as previously said, you must always keep an eye on the maximum exposure duration (freehand limit). Generally speaking, the shorter the better. As a result, always expose for as long as is required, but as little as possible. You can, by the way, change the ISO value. Instead of shooting at ISO 100 and risking handshake, shoot at ISO 200 for half the time or ISO 400 for a fourth of the time. It’s far easier to fix a somewhat noisy image than it is to fix a blurred image. Usually, the latter is just a container for digital garbage.
Denoising, on the other hand, causes the image to lose details. As a result, you should not increase the ISO needlessly.
When shooting handheld, you should practice shooting from a stable position. To give the camera more stability, lean against a wall or use the tightened camera strap. You can also rest your camera and provide additional support by crossing your arms or using other objects. Squatting or resting the elbow of the arm supporting the lens in front of your chest can also help. Use your imagination and put in some practice time. It will pay off in the form of sharp images.
When shooting handheld without a tripod, not only should you maintain a steady position, but you should also be cautious when hitting the shutter release button.
Even a small amount of pressure on the shutter release can cause your camera to move unintentionally, resulting in blurred photographs. Familiarize yourself with the pressure point of your camera’s shutter release and practice a little at first.
You can simply avoid the effect described above by using your camera’s continuous shooting mode. Because the shutter release is already fully depressed and the camera is more solid in your palm than with picture number one, the second or third photo in such a sequence will almost always be sharper than the first.
The focus point must be set correctly in order for your image to be sharp. Modern cameras typically have excellent autofocus mechanisms, which I rely on as well. In some cases, though, it is far safer to set the focal point yourself.
The focus point for portraits should be in the eye; for detailed photos with an open aperture, you should also position the focus yourself; and even for landscape shots, it makes sense to choose the focus point intentionally.
Your camera has a variety of modes. Make sure you’re familiar with them. Setting the focus point via spot should be simple for you and a function that is easily available.
For example, on a Canon camera, you can assign the spot function to the asterisk button so that you use it without looking through the viewfinder.
This suggestion may appear to be insignificant, but it’s a lesson I’ve had to learn the hard way on multiple occasions. Before each shoot, make sure the image stabilizer is activated or disabled, especially if you use a tripod sometimes.
Make it a habit to utilize the image stabilizer whenever you use a lens, even if you switch lenses. Create a “default setting” for it.
Of course, shooting from a tripod is preferable. This isn’t for everyone, and I myself prefer to shoot handheld. Even so, there are some situations where a tripod is unavoidable. Shooting using a tripod is also recommended if you want razor-sharp photographs.
A hook is found on the bottom of many tripods. You can hang a weight here, such as your rucksack, to weigh it down and make the tripod bombproof. If feasible, select a covered spot for your tripod if it’s windy.
If you’re going to use a tripod anyhow, utilize the Live View to focus. You may adjust the focus and double-check it right here. For this, you can use the zoom feature on your camera.
Zoom in on the image region you wish to sharpen, then manually adjust the focus by turning the focus ring until all of the features are sharp. Of course, you turn off the autofocus first.
When shooting handheld, the image stabilizer should be turned on. However, when shooting on a tripod, it’s a different story. Always make sure that the image stabilizer is turned off here.
When the image stabilizer on the tripod is active, it attempts to compensate for motions that do not exist; in other words, the image will be less crisp than if the image stabilizer is turned off, which is designed to adjust for movements.
When photographing with a tripod, use a set, mentally repeatable checklist:
Many cameras have clever autofocus mechanisms that recognize the focus area in the image automatically. This is normally effective, although it isn’t always the case.
You should only let the autofocus perform the focusing, especially with an SLR camera; the choice of what to focus on should be made by a professional photographer.
Several autofocus fields can be activated simultaneously or individually depending on the camera model. In the viewfinder of your DSLR, you see the active fields and use them to point at the part of your subject you wish to focus on.
When it comes to people and animals, the answer is simple: it depends on the eyes. And here’s something much more specific: Otherwise, it appears weird on the eye nearest to the camera. Feel free to give it a shot.
It’s usually the same with things as it is with eyes: it’s ideal to focus on the spot on the subject that is closest to you. However, it is not so evident in this case.
If you’re shooting macro and the closest section of the subject is very close to the camera, this is an exception. In that situation, the nearest area of the foreground can be softly out of focus while the subject’s center remains sharp.
To acquire the sharpest photographs possible when shooting from a tripod, you should always exhaust all options. This includes not using a regular shutter release and instead of using a remote shutter release.
They’re available with and without cords, and many of them can even be controlled using a smartphone app. By using the remote shutter release, you can avoid minor blurs that are nearly always created by mechanically pressing down the shutter release.
Alternatively, you can simply utilize your camera’s self-timer, which I normally do for the sake of simplicity. You can choose between 2 and 10 seconds with Canon.
After that, you simply release the shutter as you would in normal photography. The camera will not shoot the image right away but will wait for the set amount of time before automatically releasing the shutter.
This merely allows the camera to exclude minor movements by mechanically pressing the shutter button.
And there’s another source of minor vibration that causes the tiniest blur in every image taken with an SLR camera: the mirror folding itself. Even a remote shutter release can not stop this mechanical operation from being transferred to the camera body.
You can, however, simply flip the mirror up before opening the aperture to avoid vibrations when shooting. The mirror lock-up function, which can quickly be activated using the menu function, is designed for this purpose.
Tip: Put the mirror lockup functions in their own menu so you can access them fast and easily at any time.
If you want your photograph to have as much depth of field as possible – that is, all elements of the image should be as sharp as possible – select a larger aperture number. f/8.0 – f/11.0 is a decent choice most of the time.
The deeper the depth of field in a photograph, the larger the aperture number. But be careful not to close the aperture too small.
Diffraction blur, which occurs at apertures of f/18.0 – f/22.0, is a physical effect that works against the goal of obtaining a sharp image. You can absolutely go beyond f/16.0 on a full-frame.
Diffraction blur is common in the APS-C format above this range. If you want a great, clean landscape photograph, closing the aperture to the utmost will not get you there.
Regularly inspect the cleanliness of your equipment, preferably before each usage. When you’re on the go, clean your lenses and keep cleaning tools on hand. A lens pen, decent bellows, and a lint-free cloth should be in your camera bag.
At regular intervals, you should inspect your sensor for sensor stains. Take a photo of a white sheet of paper. Look for any flaws in the final image. If there are any, you should consider cleaning the sensor right away.
In most cases, post-processing can simply wipe out such sensor spots. However, keep in mind that you must do this for each and every image. In every photograph, the spots will always be in the same area.
The use of proper high-quality lenses is simple, although not inexpensive, recommendation. In terms of image clarity and sharpness, the difference between a $200 lens and a $2,000 lens might be enormous.
Of course, it depends on your budget, but in general, high-quality lenses are expensive. They are however, worth the higher price tag.
Because of their simpler design, fixed focal lengths are frequently sharper than zoom lenses set to the same focal length. Fixed focal lengths, on the other hand, must be adored.
They have certain benefits in terms of bokeh and clarity, but they have the drawback of having a fixed focal length. Zooming only works by moving farther out and closer in with your feet.
Fixed focal lengths are another factor to consider if you want to get the most sharpness out of your camera.
In general, the less focal length latitude a lens has, the sharper it is. When it comes to exceptionally sharp shots, a zoom like the Tamron 18-300 is not a suitable choice. This is because tremendous flexibility comes at the expense of sharpness.
In most cases, a recently purchased lens will function well. However, there are a few instances where a lens is not properly calibrated. Backfocus and misfocus are terms you may have heard.
Assume you’ve followed all of the recommended tips for a sharp image, but the focus still doesn’t always line up perfectly. Perhaps there is an issue with the autofocus.
The following is a fast test that could support this assumption: Install a tripod in front of a vertical wall and a sheet with high-contrast horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines.
Take a shot in Live View and another with active autofocus (using the viewfinder). In both circumstances, you use identical settings and single-field autofocus to focus on the same place.
On the computer, you compare the two images. If the sharpness in both photographs is not the same, there could be an autofocus issue. In this case, it would be best to have the lens checked by a specialist dealer or the lens manufacturer’s technical support.
Depending on the aperture, lenses produce very variable results in terms of sharpness. Stopping down by 2-3 stops above the starting aperture usually yields the greatest results.
For example, a Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM is best used between f/8.0 and f/11.0, as this is when it produces the best sharpness. Here, vignetting and aberrations will be at their lowest.
You should be aware that such a filter not only absorbs a small amount of light but also loses some clarity. When you put a cheap filter in front of a good lens, it loses its effectiveness.
If you’re going to use a filter, be sure it’s of good quality. You should avoid using filters if you want your image to be as sharp as possible. UV filters are almost always unnecessary.
Is it too dark to shoot handheld? Then you have the option of using the flash. Even while the flash is not always good, it is occasionally preferable to take a blurry image or not take a picture at all.
It’s also a good idea to take a powerful flashlight with you when shooting at night. It’s not always easy to concentrate in the dark. An illuminated tree or anything like that can provide immediate assistance.
Beginner Photography Sections
When shooting in JPEG format, very dark or very light areas with little detail are frequently difficult to save. Because the RAW format captures far more detail and color gradation, such areas can be processed quickly and effectively. As a result, photographs with a lot of contrast and bright or dark parts should always be captured in RAW format.
While we’re at it, let’s not forget about the importance of post-processing your photographs. You can sharpen your photographs a little more here. Sharpening, on the other hand, should always be the final stage in the process and should never be overdone.
We got excellent results using Exposure X5, which can be readily integrated as a plug-in into Photoshop and Lightroom. The filter has excellent presets and is simple to operate. It’s easier to adjust and use than the built-in sharpness adjustments. But, in the end, it’s a matter of personal preference.
Just remember that sharpening might help you get the most out of your image if you don’t overdo it. Good judgment is required.
Everything is in place: the camera is mounted on a tripod, the image stabilizer is turned off, the aperture and ISO are correct, the focus is correct, and the subject is stationary. Even so, your photos aren’t as sharp as you’d like them to be.
This could be caused by mirror wobble if you have a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera). When you push the shutter button, the camera’s mirror rises.
This causes vibrations, which may be seen in the shot later. This is especially true for cameras with a high resolution.
The issue is straightforward to resolve. The so-called mirror lockup can be turned on in the camera menu. The mirror then flips up a few seconds before the real photo is taken, depending on the selected setting. That gives enough time for the camera’s vibrations to decrease.
By the way, cameras without a mirror mechanism, also known as system cameras (DSLM), do not have this issue. However, only use the mirror lock-up with a tripod.
And, once again, everything is in place. You’re standing in a breathtaking location, and you want to capture the stunning sunset. The exposure time is two seconds, which is no problem because of the tripod. Despite this, the image is hazy. Is it possible that the wind is blowing?
Vibrations of the tripod with the camera on it might be caused by strong winds. As a result, photographs are blurred. Shortening the exposure duration and using a very sturdy tripod help here.
Carbon as a tripod material is also beneficial because it is significantly stiffer than aluminum and has less weight.
It’s almost the same situation: everything fits, and there’s no breeze. However, you are still unable to take sharp photographs. Check to see if your tripod head can support the camera’s weight.
The camera may slip during the shoot if the tripod head is too weak. It doesn’t have to be much, but it should be enough to blur your image.
Use your camera’s continuous shooting mode to snap multiple photographs in quick succession while just pressing the shutter button once. The advantage is that the second and third pictures, in particular, are frequently significantly crisper than the first. On my camera, I almost always have the fast continuous shooting mode turned on.
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